coordination (grammar)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In English grammar, coordination is the joining of words, phrases, or clauses of the same type to give them equal emphasis and importance. Also known as parataxis.

The common conjunctions--and, but, for, or, nor, yet, and so--are structural words that join the elements of a coordinate construction.

Clauses joined by coordination are main clauses or coordinate clauses. (A sentence containing two or more clauses linked by coordination is called a compound sentence.) This is in contrast to subordination, which joins a main clause and a subordinate clause.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Latin, "ordered together"

Examples and Observations

  • "Bailey and I lay the coins on top of the cash register."

    "She had a quiet, hard talk with Uncle Willie and called Bailey and me into the Store."
    (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 1969)
  • "I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap."
    (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • "Fern phoned and got her Aunt Edith, and her Aunt Edith hollered for Uncle Homer, and Uncle Homer came in from the barn and talked to Fern."

    "Wilbur didn't know what to do or which way to run."

    "His back itched, so he leaned against the fence and rubbed against the boards."
    (E.B. White, Charlotte's Web. Harper, 1952)
  • "Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect."
    (Steven Wright)
  • "One hot evening in Padua they carried him up onto the roof and he could look out over the top of the town. There were chimney swifts in the sky. After a while it got dark and the searchlights came out. The others went down and took the bottles with them. He and Luz could hear them below on the balcony. Luz sat on the bed. She was cool and fresh in the hot night."
    (Ernest Hemingway, "A Very Short Story")
  • "He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge."
    (Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art of Murder")
  • "The technique of coordination, of putting together compound structures in sentences, is old hat: you've been doing it all your life. . . . Within the sentence our most common connectors are the coordinate conjunctions, which combine two structures of equal rank: and, but, or, for, yet."
    (Martha Kolln, Rhetorical Grammar. Allyn and Bacon, 1999)
  • Gapped Coordination and Joint Coordination
    "If conjoined clauses have identical verbs, the verb and any other identical constituent immediately preceding or following the verb can be elided from the second clause. This leaves a gap in the middle of that clause, as shown in (48b), so this process is referred to as gapping or as gapped coordination.
    (48) a. John ordered carrots, and Fred ordered peas.
    (48) b. John ordered carrots, and Fred _____ peas.
    Often the elided element is just the verb, as in (48) . . ..

    "The sentence in (64) is an example of what has been referred to as joint coordination, that is, coordination in which two elements, in this case the NP Alex and Chris, function as a unit. Thus, the sentence would not be paraphrasable with each of the coordinated elements in its own clause.
    (64) Alex and Chris are a happy couple.
    Unlike sentences in previous sections, (64) cannot be rephrased with coordinate clauses--we cannot have *Alex is a happy couple, and Chris is a happy couple."
    (Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press, 2008)

    Pronunciation: ko-OR-di-NAY-shun